News roundup: Executions and elections in China

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Top China news for November 15, 2016. Get this daily digest delivered to your inbox by signing up at

Executions and elections in China

The execution of Jia Jinglong, a Chinese villager convicted of murdering an official with a nail gun, was a major China news story in the English language press on November 14 and 15. The New York Times headlined it “Chinese farmer’s execution shows the pitfalls of rapid urbanization” while the Guardian called Jia a “symbol of injustice.” The farmer said he was driven to the crime because the official had ordered the illegal demolition of his home the day before his wedding.

Jia’s plight stirred up a great deal of concern in China, where abuse by local officials is common, and he appealed the death sentence. However, the Supreme People’s Court upheld it, laying out the reasoning in an article published by Xinhua News Agency (in Chinese only). The case and Jia’s execution have been widely covered in Chinese media, but cautiously and without much discussion of the widespread sympathy that Jia had found among the Chinese public.

On November 15, Chinese state media focused on district- and township-level elections held across China. Xinhua News Agency headlined it “China pursues its own style of democracy in local elections,” and most central government media prominently featured a photo of Xi Jinping casting his vote at a ballot box.

The result of the U.S. presidential election remains a much-discussed topic in China, too. The blog Chublic Opinion has a post on the American president-elect’s popularity in China titled “People’s republic of spiritual rednecks,” in which author Ma Tianjie explains that “Trump’s appeal in China…shed[s] light on the cultural and political propensities of a vocal segment of the Chinese society today.”  

On SupChina today, Michelle Winglee wrote a special piece for us discussing rural land rights reforms with Fred Gale, senior economist at the United States Department of Agriculture.

Other China stories to watch are linked below.


  • China’s yuan tumbles to its lowest in nearly eight years as dollar jumps after U.S. election / CNBC
    One U.S. dollar is now worth up to 6.86 Chinese yuan, the greatest disparity since the financial crisis. Multiple sources have pointed to the strong demand for U.S. currency in response to the election as the cause, and analysts expect the trend to continue due to president-elect Trump’s fiscal stimulus plans.
  • Opinion: China’s right: Smartphones are a big reason Trump can’t win a trade war / The Verge
    “There’s an asymmetry here that Mr. Trump seems unaware of. Apple can’t build an iPhone without China, but China can build hundreds of millions of devices approaching the iPhone’s quality without Apple’s help,” writes Vlad Savov, responding to an editorial published in the Communist Party mouthpiece Global Times.
  • Uber might have the last laugh over China / Bloomberg
    Three months after China’s Didi Chuxing drove Uber out of the country, it faces policies from local governments — even in markets as large as Beijing — that “would only allow local city residents to drive for car-hailing apps.” This unexpected regulation spells big trouble for the company, as in Shanghai, for example, fewer than 3 percent of its drivers qualify. 
  • Secret backdoor in some U.S. phones sent data to China, analysts say / NYT
    “Security contractors recently discovered preinstalled software in some Android phones that monitors where users go, whom they talk to and what they write in text messages. The American authorities say it is not clear whether this represents secretive data mining for advertising purposes or a Chinese government effort to collect intelligence.”


  • HK’s High Court disqualifies two nation-insulting legislators-elect / Xinhua (state media)
    Justice Thomas Au accepted Beijing’s reinterpretation of Article 104 of Hong Kong’s Basic Law, and beyond strictly considering the oaths of legislators Yau Wai-ching and Sixtus Leung to be invalid, he “also ruled that the president of [Hong Kong’s Legislative Council] has no power to re-administer or allow for re-administration of any future oath-taking by the two.”
  • Hong Kong’s disqualified localist pair vow to appeal and seek injunction to stop their LegCo seats being declared vacant / SCMP
    Although the controversial legislators Sixtus Leung and Yau Wai-ching say that a court battle could cost them up to HK$5 million, they believe it would be worth it to “defend Hong Kong’s civilized systems.”
  • Opinion: Preparing Asia for an America led by Trump / The Japan Times
    “For Australia and other U.S. allies and partners in the region, this presidential election makes it clear that we can no longer — assuming we ever could — take coherent, smart American leadership for granted. We must do more for ourselves and work together more, while relying less on the U.S.,” writes Gareth Evans, the former foreign minister of Australia.
  • Next stop South China Sea? China’s 1st aircraft carrier ‘ready for combat’ / The Diplomat
    While noting that “it is unlikely that the carrier will be ready for high-tempo combat operations anytime soon for a number of reasons (e.g., lack of adequate pilot training, lack of escort ships, lack of operational range, etc.),” Franz-Stefan Gady at The Diplomat said the carrier could be used for a variety of uses: “regional missions including humanitarian aid and disaster relief operations, training exercises and — more worrisome — operations in the South China Sea to assert China’s territorial claims.”


  • Analysis: People’s republic of spiritual rednecks / Chublic Opinion
    “The Trump fanfare in China embodies an interesting contradiction: outward-looking, intellectually curious Chinese individuals embracing an American strongman who builds his political brand on xenophobia and ignorance,” writes Ma Tianjie. “To many Chinese, ‘political correctness’ is equivalent to socialist dogmas that should be swept aside when addressing the West’s ‘real’ problems.”
  • Donald Trump’s granddaughter wins over China with video showing off her Mandarin skills / Shanghaiist
    A video of Arabella, the five-year-old daughter of Ivanka Trump, reciting Chinese poetry has gone viral on Chinese social media. The Shanghaiist reports, “Chinese netizens are understandably impressed by Arabella’s Mandarin skills,” while “some less understandably believe that it reflects well on Trump and his future presidency.”